A PCL injury is a sprain or tear of the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). The PCL is a band of tissue that crosses inside the center of the knee joint. It connects your thighbone to the bone of your lower leg. The PCL keeps your knee stable when it moves forward or backward.
A direct blow to the knee can injure your PCL. For example, the PCL can be injured in a car crash when your bent knee hits the dashboard. You can also hurt your PCL during sports, such as football, soccer, or skiing. Or you can hurt it while doing other activities if you fall on your bent knee with your foot or toes bent downward or if the front of your knee is hit.
A PCL injury can also happen if you stretch or straighten your knee beyond its normal limits (hyperextend the knee).
An injury to your PCL may cause:
The doctor will examine you and ask questions about your past health. He or she will also ask how you injured your knee and about your symptoms at the time you injured it.
Your doctor will carefully examine your knee and leg. He or she will look and feel to see if there is swelling and may gently push on certain places to find spots that are most tender. Then your doctor will move your knee and leg in certain ways to help check for stability. He or she will also look at the rest of your leg to make sure that blood is flowing, the leg works well, and there are no other injuries above or below the knee.
You may have some tests, such as an X-ray or an MRI.
Most PCL injuries can be treated at home with:
Your doctor may suggest that you use crutches to limit how much weight you put on your leg. He or she may also suggest that you wear a brace that protects and supports the knee but allows for some movement.
You may need to be less active for a while. But doing gentle stretching and range-of-motion exercises as advised by your doctor will help you heal.
A severe tear may need surgery. But this usually isn't done unless you also injure other parts of your knee, such as the medial collateral ligament (MCL) or meniscus.
Your treatment will depend on how severe your injury is and whether other parts of your knee are injured.
Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to increase range of motion and strengthen your muscles.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
Other Works ConsultedAdib F, et al. (2015). Posterior cruciate ligament sprain. In WR Frontera et al., eds., Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 3rd ed., pp. 394-398. Philadelphia: Saunders.McMahon PJ, et al. (2014). Sports medicine. In HB Skinner, PJ McMahon, eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment in Orthopedics, 5th ed., pp. 88-155. New York: McGraw-Hill.Petrigliano FA, et al. (2015). Posterior cruciate ligament injuries. In MD Miller, SR Thompson, eds., DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine: Principles and Practice, 4th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1164-1182. Philadelphia: Saunders.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerPatrick J. McMahon, MD - Orthopedic Surgery
Current as ofMarch 21, 2017
Current as of:
March 21, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Patrick J. McMahon, MD - Orthopedic Surgery
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Last modified on: 8 September 2017